Senate Advances SAFER Banking Act, Sending Legislation to Senate Floor

Oct 3, 2023Congressional Legislation, Federal Regulation, News

Last week, the Senate Banking Committee approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, a week after it was filed with revisions to garner more bipartisan buy-in. The legislation would make it easier for financial institutions to serve legal cannabis businesses, and will now be moved to the Senate floor.

“Regardless about how you feel about states’ efforts to legalize marijuana, this bipartisan bill is necessary,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. “It will make it safer for legal cannabis businesses and service providers to operate, to protect their workers first and foremost and to operate in their communities.”

The legislation is sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Daines emphasized that as a banking bill, the legislation is not necessarily a step toward legalization. “The current all cash model of legal cannabis businesses makes them targets for theft, for tax evasion and for organized crime,” he said.

The committee adopted an amendment by Brown that makes technical, non-controversial changes. However, the committee rejected two amendments: one to sunset the bill after five years unless the Treasury Department reports that it has decreased the racial wealth gap, and another to replace Section 10 with language stating that regulators cannot pressure businesses to refuse service to legal entities. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she supports the bill as it represents “common sense policy” that’s “a good step in the right direction to make federal cannabis law a little less out of touch with reality on the ground in states across this country.”

However, the bill that was approved by the committee is most likely not in its final form, as there are additional plans to amend it on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to incentivize state-level cannabis expungements and protect gun rights for marijuana consumers. 

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